Protecting your privacy online

Digital technologies are changing the world of advertising. Increasingly, companies are using personal consumer data submitted via digital channels such as social media to develop more targeted advertising strategies, allowing them to market products and services more effectively. With data-driven marketing becoming increasingly common, how easy is it to hide personal data online?

Online marketing spend

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) recently released UK online advertising spend figures for 2015 to 2016. According to the IAB and PwC, UK advertisers devoted a record £8.61bn to digital advertising in this period, rising by 16.4% on the previous year.

Increasing by 60.3% year-on-year, mobile accounted for the vast majority of digital ad spend expansion from 2015 to 2016. Mobile now comprises almost a third (30.5%) of all digital ad spend in the UK. Ad spend on video and social media grew by 50.7% and 45% respectively from 2015 to 2016. It is clear that increasingly, UK advertisers are utilising digital channels to market to consumers.

Data-driven approach

Data driven advertising is becoming more popular because it allows companies to use personalisation to target their campaigns more effectively. An infographic drawn up by Ad Week showed that 77% of marketers are confident about data-driven marketing and 74% expected to expand their data marketing budgets in the year ahead.

Explaining the rise of data-driven marketing, analytic data platform Teradata said: “Customers today expect—and demand—a seamless and relevant experience… They have grown accustomed to marketers’ knowledge of their preferences and anticipation of their needs.” Almost a quarter (24%) of respondents said that the growing availability of audience data is a major driver of data marketing.

Consumer attitudes

Statistics quoted by Campaign Live sheds more light onto consumer attitudes to data marketing. Notably, figures from the IAB indicate that one in five British adults now uses ad blockers, with this number rising among younger consumers. Digital content agency Adjust Your Set polled 624 people in the 16 to 24 age bracket to determine how younger consumers react to data marketing.

Over half (53%) said that creating a profile and logging into a site, which allows advertisers to access personal data, is inconvenient. Interestingly, almost all (91%) consumers questioned argued that if they provide personal data online, they should receive something in return. The rewards suggested by respondents ranged from a more personalised user experience (46%) to loyalty points (45%).

When it came to data collection strategies, respondents expressed mixed feelings. These strategies include ‘re-targeting,’ where advertisers use personal consumer data to target the same item to the one person on multiple digital platforms. Talking about re-targeting, one respondent was quoted saying: “I would personally never click on [a retargeted ad]. Even if I wanted to buy it, I would never go through that page because I find it to be a bit of an invasion and it’s a bit creepy.”

Data marketing regulations

Consumers do find data-driven marketing useful. It allows them to purchase products and purposes more conveniently. However, consumers sometimes feel uncomfortable when targeted with online behavioural advertising (OBA). This is where companies collect information from web browsers in order to make their digital marketing campaigns more relevant to a particular consumer.

UK industry body the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) now regulates OBA. The ASA requires online advertisers to make it clear to users that they are collecting and using information for OBA marketing purposes and provide them with an opt out tool. These regulations allow consumers some degree of control over how their personal data is used for advertising purposes.

Evolving data marketing

But with data marketing technologies evolving, it is getting increasingly harder for consumers to hide their personal information online. Metro reports that Facebook has now decided to push targeted ads out to everybody online, even if they are not signed up to the social media site.

At present, Facebook only utilises targeted advertising for its own users. But the company is planning to expand the Facebook Audience Network, which will give developers and publishers the ability to reach more consumers via Facebook advertising. As part of these plans, Facebook will start using the ‘like’ buttons and codes on other websites to track peoples’ browsing behaviour.

Facebook’s Ads and Business Platform Vice President, Andrew Bosworth said: “Our buttons and plugins send over basic information about users’ browsing sessions. For non-Facebook members, previously we didn’t use it. Now we’ll use it to better understand how to target those people.”

Actively opting out

Consumers value personalisation, as long as they hold some control over how their information is gathered and used. Despite the right to opt out of OBA advertising, the degree of control consumers hold over their personal data is debatable. With companies such as Facebook continuing to develop data collection methods, it is getting harder for consumers to hide their personal data online.